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3 Steps to Effective Email Segmentation

Rebecca Gatesman

By Beth Foster

When you look at the data, there’s no denying that the age-old strategy of email marketing has proven timeless, year over year. Market research firm WBR Digital found that a shocking 80% of retail professionals indicated email marketing as their greatest driver of customer retention. With a marketing tool this powerful, your email list is one of your business’ greatest assets. To make the most of it, smart customer segmentation is critical. No two email addresses are the same, and neither are the current and future customers behind them.

Effective customer segmentation begins with recognizing that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to email marketing. With this in mind, your campaigns should be tailored to ensure that you are sending the right message, to the right customer, at the right time. Paying attention to this part of the email distribution process will allow you to reap the rewards of your investment; when your new target receives a relevant message, the chances of them engaging with your brand are 100.95% better than with a non-segmented campaign.

If the concept of email segmentation is new to you, don’t worry -- there are three simple steps you can follow to make sure the next email you send is an intentional one. These include identifying what kind of customers you’re working with, where they are in the customer life cycle and consistent tracking of their progress throughout it.

Let’s take a look at each of these in a bit more detail.

  • 1. Identify Your Buyer Personas

  • eCommerce businesses have easy access to the holy grail of strategic decision-making: data. Every time a current or potential customer lands on your web page, they are leaving behind invisible footprints that you can track for the betterment of your business.

    This data can provide helpful insight into who your customers are and the ways in which they relate to your brand. As a result, you can start to develop buyer personas: a term defined by Hubspot as “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on real data about your existing customers.”

    Buyer personas can be created by tracking and evaluating your customers based on how they interact with your content. These interactions will typically fall into the four pillars of segmentation: demographics, geographic, psychographics, and behaviours.

    You can determine this information using a variety of tools. Google Analytics, for example, can zone in on the demographic and geographic features of your users. With Google, you can determine how old your customers are, their gender, and whether they’re visiting your site from Saudi Arabia or the United Kingdom.

    If you’re looking for insights into the psychographic and behavioral features of your customers, tools like Glew and and Zaius can help you find them. With these resources, you can answer questions like: are customers spending most of their time on your “clearance” page, or do they focus on your higher-end items? Are they prone to abandoning their cart, or do they complete the checkout process after every visit? Once you’ve been able to collect this data, a tool like Optimizely can help you test your assumptions about the profiles created.

    Once you’ve developed behavior-inspired buyer personas, you can start to make data-driven decisions to ensure each customer is segmented into a group with characteristics that match. In these ways, intentionally segmenting your emails based on buyer personas will help you achieve the objective of sending your content to the right people.

    2. Recognize That Your Customers Are in a Life Cycle

    Over a customer’s “lifetime” with your business, they will progress through a series of stages in the customer “life cycle”. Starting as a prospect, the goal is to convert all potential customers from this stage to a lead.  These leads then become paying customers who eventually can become an advocate of your brand.

    Based on the characteristics of each of your buyer personas, you can begin to determine which stage of the customer life cycle each of your shoppers is currently in. This is where the right messaging becomes extremely important.  According to Consumer Email Tracker, 49% of marketers see their emails as relevant to customers, while a contrasting 85% of customers say that less than half of the emails they receive are considered relevant. This disconnect is occurring between brands who are sending one-size-fits-all emails to customers who aren’t ready for -- or interested in -- the message they’re receiving.

    To combat this statistic, each of your persona segments should receive a message that is personalized to their current position in the customer life cycle. For example, your “Abandoning Annies” (also known as customers who frequently add sale items into their cart but don’t follow through on their purchases) should receive an email that politely prompts them to complete their purchase, moving them from a lead to a paying customer. These messages are dramatically different from what you’d send your “Checkout Charlies” (customers who frequent your store and always complete their purchase).  This segment of customers would benefit more from an email thanking them for their loyalty and inviting them to your referral program, transforming them from a paying customer to a loyal advocate.

    If these emails were reversed, it would be a lot more difficult to help your shoppers progress to the next stage in the customer life cycle.  Abandoning Annie would be unlikely to participate in a referral program as a non-paying customer, and Checkout Charlie would feel like a sales figure instead of a valued client.

    With this in mind, don’t alienate current and potential customers by sending emails with irrelevant messaging! Focus on segmenting your customers based on your established buyer personas, and send them the right message to move them to the next stage of their life cycle with your business.

    3. Track Your Buyers as They Progress Through the Customer Life Cycle

    Once you’ve shifted your thinking to imagine your customers as progressing through a life cycle, the next step is just as critical: tracking. While it’s nearly impossible to know exactly where your customers stand in their life cycle at all times, you should use the data that you do have about their relationship with your company to cater your emails appropriately.

    Tracking customer relationships is an all-hands-on-deck task, and it’s important that your order system and lead collection tools are connected. After making their first purchase, a website visitor who merely browsed your shop in the past should stop receiving email solicitations designed for potential clients, and start receiving those designed for first-time customers.

    If marketing tools aren’t synced, there may be a significant delay in this customer’s migration to the next stage of their life cycle. For instance, if an email designed for browsers who have yet to make a purchase is sent to a first-time customer shortly after they complete their purchase, it’s likely that this customer will be segmented incorrectly and receive the wrong emails moving forward.

    Using stand-alone data systems limits your ability to provide the best possible experience for your customers.  It also limits your potential to maximize your customer lifetime value. When your marketing tools are integrated, each email you send will be an intentional step in progressing your customers through their life cycle with your business. The results are win-win: a better experience for your customers and more return on your investment into the relationship.

    4. Hit Send with Effective Email Segmentation

    By the end of 2017 an estimated 269 billion emails will be sent. With so many messages being sent every day, it’s crucial that yours are intentional -- including the right message, for the right person, at the right time. Without this focus, all of your hard work and investment into your customer relationships may be fruitless. Apps like Klaviyo (designed for simple email segmentation and automation) can support your initiative of sending intentional emails by making it easier for you to optimize your campaigns.

    Now that you’ve identified your buyer personas through segmentation, wrapped your head around the concept of customer life cycle and set up your marketing tools to track it efficiently, you’re equipped to start sending your emails with clear intent.

    So what are you waiting for? Start using your email list like the weapon that it is!


    Beth Foster is a Marketing Coordinator at  You can often find her reading a book, exploring interesting rewards programs, or catching up on This Is Us.


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